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Hemingway and the Dog.

A large, dark cloud throws a shadow on the plants lining the wall. The thunder gods rumble across the sky and I run to the window to affirm – it’s early, too early. I hadn’t slept but a few hours the night before and woke up at the crack of dawn. My phone says 6:45a.m. and I slump down on the couch just in time for the rain.

Listening to the drops beat against the windows, feeling the thunder in my gut is a tonic. So much so that I’m dozing again – a deep, restful nap that lasts about an hour. I’d dreamed of a dog. It’s balancing on the roof of a car and I’m trying to stop the car from moving, but the driver doesn’t hear me, doesn’t see me, and hits the gas. The dog falls, unharmed but shaken. I cradle it in my arms. The dog is medium sized, tan, almost white.

When I wake, the rain has passed and the sky is a pleasant shade of blue, clear as the day is young. The breeze feels soft and cool. I know so because I crack a window to smell the sun shinning on wet pavement, pine and summer adding to the aroma. Sleepy and unfocused, I reheat the coffee that was left in the french press from the day before. It would take a minute or two, so I settle back in the front room to stare out the window. There’s a rocking chair on our porch that isn’t rocking. A stray dog runs by. It’s medium-sized, tan as a toasted bean, black face. It looks stressed, scared. Through the open window I whistle at it and it looks towards me, briefly. Now I’m outside on the porch because the dog is heading for the main road, Woodward and 8 mile, on a busy Friday afternoon. A tall thin lady with short pink hair is speed-walking after it, in pursuit of the spooked canine.
“Is it yours?” I ask as she passes.
She doesn’t look at me.
“No. I just don’t want it to get hit.”

Two cars stop near the intersection. Heads are leaning out the windows. Everyone is watching the dog and the dog is still darting this way and that. I walk down my steps and whistle at it. Calm, detached. The dog seems to respond to this so I keep whistling. It turns from the cars, dodges the lady in pink, runs towards me, but crosses to the opposite side of the street before it gets too close. Now the dog is sprinting down the street toward the innards of the neighborhood. Wouldn’t have been the first time I’d caught a stray and brought it home.

The lady in pink whisks by me again. She’s still following the trail of the dog. She still doesn’t look at me.

I’ve burnt the morning coffee. I’m back in the house recounting the dream I’d had from just an hour before, wondering where all the wonderful “breakfast” smells are coming from. It’s not until the coffee is really cooking that I remember. I’d put it on high in a large pot, nearly a whole french press full, and now it’s reduced to a thick, brown sludge. I drink it anyway.

An older man on a green bike rides by. He has a blue sweater, round glasses, a blue knit hat and a brown satchel. He looks like Hemingway, I think. He looks straight into my window.

Nanowrimo 2018 is here!

It’s NaNoWriMo again!!! For those of you who know, that means – National November Writing Month. It’s a wonderful challenge for all us writers out there to write a novel in one month – roughly 60,000 words. That means, writing has to take place EVERY DAY or you won’t win. What do you get if you win? A FRIGGIN’ FINISHED NOVEL!!! And how good would that make you feel?

I know it made me feel pretty dern good in 2015 when I finish “From the Other Seat”. Man, I was so excited about the fact I had finished my first novel that I did that total novice thing, signed up at Reedsy, found me an editor, paid a hefty fee to have it edited only to realize that the novel was SO far from being ready. Editor dude made a few brash critiques and I took that as, “THE NOVEL SUCKS. CHANGE EVERYTHING”. Ah rookie mistakes…

From the Other Seat

In my gut, I knew I should have taken Stephen King’s (On Writing) advice, put it in a drawer and forgot about it for 2 years, but instead I attacked it, kept editing, ripped apart the structure until it was no longer the same book. In the back of my mind I heard King’s warning, if you keep picking at a new manuscript you’ll destroy it….

Well. I did. Done destroyed it. “From the Other Seat” still exists, mind you. It lives in about 5 different versions in 8 different folders in my handy Scriviner software. I’ve opened them again recently… there’s still a novel there… somewhere. I’ll uh… fix it someday… **sigh**

This year, I’m preggers and home most of the time, thus I have a second chance at novel writing. Luckily, I have a few old ideas waiting in the wings, so while I won’t be starting from scratch, I’ll be starting anew. Arizona, Gallup (3)The new project is called, “Freedom Falling” (temporary cover, bad design, I know). It’s roughly about being a rebellious teen, and trying to grow up too fast. She’s a runaway who finds her self in the dusty desert with some shady characters where she tastes fear for the first time, loses her innocence, and her virginity, but gains a whole lot of life lessons along the way.

Boring premise? Well… I’m working on it. The point of Nano is not to be an amazing writer right from the start, but just to BE A WRITER. Write. Whatever. Just let your fingers fly. Let out the good, bad, and the ugly. Don’t edit along the way. Only move forward. There’s no other way to get through the challenge. And even if, like me, you’ll delete half the book when the challenge is through, you’ll have puked out all the bad ideas along the way. You have to get out the bad before you get to the good… I think Hemingway said that.

Anyway, I love this challenge because I make so many excuses in my normal weeks to NOT write, or at least not write in a purposeful way. And I can’t explain how satisfying it is to log in your daily word progress and watch the handy novel graph go up up up up. (If you’re curious what I’m talking about head to https://nanowrimo.org)

In light of Nano, I’ve compiled a simple list of my favorite authors. They are, as follows in order of flavor-favs.

Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, and Katherine Arden.

Not a huge list, but these peeps have been the most impactful on me.

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And here are a short list of books that have helped define me, in order of most inspiring:

A Moveable Feast (Hemingway) (I pretty much read this once a year)

On Writing (Stephen King)

The Shepard’s Life (Rebanks)

Kafka on the Shore (Murakami)

War Dances (Alexie)

Prodigal Summer (Kingsolver)

The Winternight Trilogy (Arden)

Women Who Run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths (Evslin)

The Little Prince (Saint-Exupéry)

The Hobbit (Tolken)

Foxfire (Oates)

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott) (all time elementary school life-changer favorite)

The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (Fortune)

Journey to Ixlan (Castaneda)

Good luck to all you fellow writers out there!!! See you in December <3

#waswritinguntil…

We’ve all seen (and used if you’re a writer) #amwriting.

Feels good, doesn’t it? Feels forward moving and the perfect affirmation even if, at the moment, you’re staring at the screen waiting for said writing to burst forth with the same fervor as that little hashtag implies.

The night was set up so perfect. You had time, you had energy, you were feeling emotional – you did not have coffee, but the wine was near by and the music was… helping? … Ok, you got a little distracted with the music selecting. But no matter.

You began editing an old piece. There’s a new piece that you’re really proud of, but you sent it to a friend and they mentioned removing the semi colons that you’ve been judiciously dumping on your writing like they belong there. All of them. You knew it was a bad idea, but somewhere in the back of your mind you were like, “semi colons are so undervalued”.

  1. Since you have a soft spot for underdogs, you ran with it. Next time though, you’ll have learned your lesson.
  2. Now the piece needs to be edited – again. Which means, for good measure, maybe you’ll let it sit in a folder and ferment for another month.

So you’re editing the old piece, you sip the wine and sip it again. A few words fall out of your head, but something feels off. You’re not emotionally invested in the piece anymore so you put a new spin on it, a darker one. You’re good at being dark, but dark is easy and you told yourself to stop being so easy.

Not sure you’re on board with your own shift in direction, you stop #amwriting to thumb the phone for a little, take a selfie or two because you need to affirm that it’s not just your disembodied ego sitting here stewing, but the whole body, vanity and all.

You head to social media to embellish the truth around any real progress and productivity, or maybe the photo is now considered progress so that’s cool, and with the social aspect you hope it will incite actual #amwriting because now you’ve called yourself out, now you’ve a responsibility to method act your way back to the #amwriting you’re supposed to be doing.

Photo posted, you tap away at a few more words, delete a few more paragraphs because #icebergtheory – the less you say on the surface, the more meaning lies underneath. Or as Ernest put it,

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest Hemingway

You bow your inner writer soul to the god that is Hemingway because now you’re giddy over how cutting out half of what you wrote makes for a more weighty piece of writing.

So, OK, but I don’t know, is it done? You re-read over and over again. Seems a bit short. You sip that wine over and over again. Does it say enough? Is it even any good? You check the status of your photo. Only two likes so far. You’ve not convinced anyone, even yourself, that you are indeed #amwriting. Should have been more truthful you think, should have posted #waswritinguntil…

You whip out the tarot deck. Close the computer. The night decays into divination and doubts. You tell yourself you’ll revisit the writing in the morning when you’re feeling less cataclysmic.

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Any of this sound familiar?

More often than not I wish I wasn’t a writer in the digital era where social media is paramount to career survival. That said, my output HAS somewhere to output because of the digital era, but that output has suffered since I was gifted a smart phone.

Blog posts seem doable. Short prose, poems, and stories seem doable. Photos – very doable. Still, it’s hard to focus on the horrible tedium that is, editing when it comes to that expansive book I #waswritinguntil…

Point being, there are ways to keep #amwriting even if you don’t feel that what you are doing can be considered such. Even if what you’re doing isn’t the thing you think you should have been doing. Like, do I really need another blog post when I have a book to edit? The answer is yes, yes I do. Because the point is #practice and #persistence and the only really bad thing a writer can do for themselves is to stop writing.

We’re hard on ourselves, us writers and creatives. I know I am. But I’m getting braver about my writer skin – more confident about what I can and cannot consider real work. You know what I’ve been learning?

  • IF YOU SHOWED UP #amwriting.
  • If you ATTEMPT to work on your craft for hours, even if a few or all of those hours were spent torturing yourself over not working efficiently or brilliantly or whatever #amwriting
  • If all you did was delete 5 sentences and reread the same first paragraph 500 times #amwriting
  • If all you managed to do was open your computer and write, “I can’t think of anything to write” – you know what? #amwriting

What I’m learning is that being a writer is a state of mind. If you never publish a damn word but consider yourself a writer, you’re a writer. So #amwriting your little heart out. Maybe #waswritinguntil… just to keep yourself in check, but above all #dontstopwriting even if the words only live in your mind. They’ll come pouring out eventually. They will because they have to because us writers, we didn’t choose the writing life, the writing life chose us.

Music selection is this gem I found – an artist out of Toronto named verzache. The above track is called “hiccup”, this one here is “juvenescence”. Was listening to his whole soundcloud last night and well… I was blown away.

Thanks for coming to my space and sharing this time with me. I’ll be posting the piece that I was working on last night… the old piece “And So We Did” on Scriggler so you can judge for yourself if it was enough of the iceberg or even any good.

As always, be well, love often, and enjoy.

Routine Maintenance

I’ve been doing this routine where I bike an hour to yoga, practice yoga for an hour, then bike back an hour from yoga. It’s a routine that takes me out of my head, forces me to pay attention as I’m dodging cars and pot holes; forces me to focus on something other than my immediate emotions as I’m stretching this way and that, challenging muscle groups to open and strengthen. Every drop of sweat padding on my rubber mat is a reward – a reminder of the solid foundation that is built upon routines.

I’ve been thinking a lot about routines.

I’ve other routines:

  • Make the bed every morning
  • Wash the sheets on Sunday
  • Clean and organize room before bed and/or before leaving the house
  • Clean dishes immediately after use
  • Get up at 6am every day and write an hour before work…..

Ok, I lied about that last one. However, in front of me is a list. Number 3 on that list is, “come up with a writing routine.” I suppose “up at 6am sharp” might be a good start.

Seems I need routines to normalize parts of my life as we all do, I’m sure. And normally those routines work to get gears turning, forcing us out of stupid habits like NOT performing those routines. We set those routines up for a reason. They need to be there because they work like oil to keep the machine turning.

But today was different. As I biked back from yoga I became frustrated that not once, not in the slightest had I exited my head during the whole 3 hours of the work out. This became most apparent mid yoga session. As my frustration grew to intolerable levels, I found myself holding my breath, resenting my instructor, doubting, cursing, just thinking negatively in all ways possible – totally contradictory to my usual heart-opening, clear-minded post yoga attitude.

Furrowed brow, I road home recklessly, wondering why today the routine had not worked.

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photography by @rustyvaughanyoung follow him on instagram

The head is a complicated place.

Maybe, I thought, to expect to scale the mountain of tumultuous ideas the mind creates with one method, even two or three – is madness.

The thought occurred to me that there is never one way, one solution, one answer to any problem. That a life filled with yoga, tai chi, tap dance, or tarot; boxing, boating, hockey, or horse riding; no amount of praying, painting, volunteering, nor activism can really solve a thing. They are tricks, methods like a magician’s handbook. Their work is an illusion.

The real work it seems, begins and ends in the mind, the heart, the human.

 

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Fitting. I drew the High Priestess and the Queen of Pentacles. Going to do a real simple summation here. The Queen, the one who has it all, the solid earth sign (represented by the pentacle) – sure and content, yet paired with the High Priestess – it’s like she’s wondering why the hell she feels like the usual just isn’t working as usual, why things seem so unsure at the moment. It’s like she’s consulting the High Priestess, like going to confessional, like provoking the deepest parts of herself. It’s like she’s sitting in her castle with all her wealth and being like, yeah but, I’m unhappy. Maybe something needs to budge, something needs to change, but what? Is it me? Is it this castle? Is it my heart? Is there something I’m not admitting to myself? Is there something I’m holding to so tightly that’s keeping me from seeing the truth, or from becoming my true self?

Maybe that’s the conversation we’re all having right now.

But don’t stop, let the frustration be fuel. Mine provoked me to do this post, and I feel great about it. Hadn’t done one in quite some time.

I’m not killing the idea of routines. Routines do help the mind cope, the gears turn, the foundation settle, and the body rest. They do, they most certainly do. But don’t be afraid to change those routines because if they’re no longer working, than the work there is done.

Do a routine maintenance check of your current routines. Change perspectives, alter angles and outlooks. Keep pushing. Fill your bag with tricks.

Choice is what guides us to becoming the best or worst versions of ourselves. We always have the power to choose.

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I don’t have any answers, not at the moment. But I do have thoughts and I hope you appreciated me sharing them.

 

Musical selection is a from a producer I’ve been obsessed with lately – Mark Barrott and his album Sketches From An Island. Love the whole album, but “Go Berri Be Happy” is currently playing while I’m closing this out so – there you have it.

Be well, love often, and enjoy!

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